a heavy, broad-bladed knife or long-bladed hatchet, especially one used by butchers for cutting meat into joints or pieces.
a person or thing that cleaves.

Origin of cleaver

First recorded in 1325–75, cleaver is from the Middle English word clevere. See cleave2, -er1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for cleaver

foe, hatchet, river, knife, axe

Examples from the Web for cleaver

Contemporary Examples of cleaver

Historical Examples of cleaver

  • The blows which she dealt with her cleaver reminded her of Marjolin.

  • Will you land on Cleaver Island, or will you get into that boat?

    Breaking Away

    Oliver Optic

  • Heavens, Steve, that cleaver of yours is a frightful thing in action!

    Spacehounds of IPC

    Edward Elmer Smith

  • Oh, because Isabel made him believe that it would not be fair to Miss Cleaver.

    Isabel Leicester

    Clotilda Jennings

  • One night he went for his wife with the cleaver and she had to sleep in a neighbour's house.


    James Joyce

British Dictionary definitions for cleaver



a heavy knife or long-bladed hatchet, esp one used by butchers
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cleaver

late 15c., "one who splits," agent noun from cleave (v.1). Originally "one who splits boards with a wedge instead of sawing;" attested as part of a surname from mid-14c. Meaning "butcher's chopper" is from mid-15c.

This last ["Marrowbones and Cleaver"] is a sign in Fetter Lane, originating from a custom, now rapidly dying away, of the butcher boys serenading newly married couples with these professional instruments. Formerly, the band would consist of four cleavers, each of a different tone, or, if complete, of eight, and by beating their marrowbones skilfully against these, they obtained a sort of music somewhat after the fashion of indifferent bell-ringing. When well performed, however, and heard from a proper distance, it was not altogether unpleasant. ... The butchers of Clare market had the reputation of being the best performers. ... This music was once so common that Tom Killigrew called it the national instrument of England. [Larwood & Hotten, "The History of Signboards from the Earliest Times to the Present Day," London, 1867]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cleaver in Science



A bifacial stone tool flaked to produce a straight, sharp, relatively wide edge at one end. Cleavers are early core tools associated primarily with the Acheulian tool culture.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.